A typical interview question is, “Can you tell me about a really good lesson you have taught, and say what made it so good?” I’m used to that one and I always have one in mind before I go to an interview.
The last time I went for an interview though, they really threw me. “Can you tell us about a really bad lesson you have taught, and what you learnt from it?” I wasn’t expecting that. Quite apart from the fact that nobody ever wants to share their failures, it’s a hard question to answer. Like most teachers I finish every lesson thinking, “I wish I could teach that all over again – I could do it so much better next time.” How do you choose one from so many like that? I decided to talk about the first lesson I ever taught as a trainee teacher as I don’t think lessons get any worse than that particular one.
I knew what my lesson objective was, and I had thought really carefully about what independent activities I wanted the class to do to practise the learning objective. What I hadn’t considered enough, was how I was going to break down the learning objective to allow them to achieve it. The result was a shambles. I threw far too much information at them in one go, and then set them off on their first task.
Of course, they didn’t understand and the noise level rose as they asked each other what to do. I got frustrated because nobody was working. They were frustrated because I was telling them to be quiet and just get on with it, but they couldn’t. By the end of the hour every child in that class hated me, and they were my least favourite class for the rest of my placement.
But I did take away a very important lesson of my own from that experience, and the first bit of advice I would give any trainee teacher going into the classroom for the first time is this:
The lesson objective is what the class should achieve by the end of the lesson. They are not going to be able to do it after the first ten minutes of the lesson – if they can then your expectations are not high enough. You need to plan a series of small steps for them to take throughout the lesson so that by the end they can look at the lesson objective and say, “Yes – I can do that.”
I’ve never made that mistake again, and now whenever I teach I think about my particular children and plan how to break the objective down for those particular children.
I recently completed the FutureLearn Good Practice in Autism Education course, and this is a website they recommended for as a place to find and share examples of good practice from all over Europe:
I haven’t had chance to check it out properly yet, but it looks as though it could be useful.
I have noticed over the last few years, that fewer and fewer children know much about nature. In fact a few weeks ago I was surprised to discover than none of the children I was working with in school knew what a buttercup was.
I know it’s hard to find time in busy lives to get to the park or walk in the country, so here are a few suggestions of things that can be done without leaving your own garden.
Important notes for the adults
This post contains lots of ideas to help your children connect with nature in your own garden. There are also ideas included for linking some of these activities to maths, English, science and art. Your child may need help or supervision carrying out these activities. These activities are suggestions only – it is your responsibility to ensure that it is safe to carry them out. Although I have used the websites and apps suggested, I have no control over their availability, content or any adverts that are placed on those sites and I cannot therefore accept responsibility for them.
Important notes for the children
There are some suggestions of things to eat in this list, but never eat anything you find in your garden without checking with an adult that it is safe to do so.
Make sure you ask an adult’s permission before doing any of these activities, and especially before visiting any of the websites or downloading any of the apps suggested here.
Always wash your hands after touching things found in your garden.
Thirty-five ideas of nature-related things to do in your home or garden.
- Race two raindrops down the window pane. Describe the path they take – straight or curvy, fast or slow?
- Count ladybirds in the garden. How many did you find? Make a tally chart of how many have two spots, four spots, etc. What was the highest number of spots? Which amount of spots was most common?
- Close your eyes outside for two minutes. What sounds can you hear?
- We talk about the seven colours of a rainbow but they don’t really have 7 colours. Look at a rainbow. What colours can you actually see?
- Choose two pretty stones from the garden. What is the same about them? What is different about them? Look at the patterns. Draw one of the stones.
- How many different coloured butterflies can you see? Have a look at a butterfly identification chart- can you identify any of them?
- Place a blade of grass between your fingers and blow. What sound does it make? What happens if you use a thicker or thinner piece of grass?
- Look at the flowers in the garden. Either find one for each colour of the rainbow, or find 3 the same colour and order them from lightest to darkest.
- Make a daisy chain.
- Touch the soil on a dry day. What does it feel like? Touch it again after it has rained. Describe the difference in texture (how it feels).
- Watch the bees. Which sort of flowers do they like best?
- Count how many different sorts of birds visit your garden. How many can you name? If you don’t know what sort they are, have a look at the RSPB site to try to identify them.
- Open the windows early one morning and listen to the bird song.
- Plant some meadow flower seeds to attract the wildlife to your garden. Don’t forget to water them on the days it doesn’t rain.
- Make your own rain gauge and measure the rainfall. If you measure it over a few days, you could draw a graph of your results.
- Eat your lunch outside.
- Look for spiders webs. How many different sorts of spiders did you spot?
- Lots of people don’t like wasps. Find out about wasps and write down one reason why we should be grateful to them.
- Tie a ribbon to a stick. Which way is the wind blowing? Watch it for a few days. Does it always blow in the same direction?
- Plant some runner bean seeds and wait for them to grow – don’t forget to water them if it doesn’t rain. When the beans develop, you can pick and eat them!
- Ask five different people what their favourite flower is and why. Write down their replies.
- Make a bark rubbing.
- Lift up a stone or log. How many different insects do you see? Note which insects like which habitats. UK Safari is a useful site to help you identify what you have found.
- Count the number of petals on different flowers. How many arrangements can you find? How many had 3 petals? How many had four? How many had 5? How many had more than 5? Draw a bar chart to show your results.
- Lie on your tummy and look at the grass. Have a look at the tiny insects you can see. Can you see any more if your use a magnifying glass?
- Smell the flowers. Which one do you like best?
- Make a collection of leaves. Pay attention to the size, colour and shape. Are they smooth, prickly or furry? Are the veins (the lines running through the leaves) hard or easy to see? If they are leaves from trees, see if you can identify them from the Woodland Trust website or download the free woodland trust app.
- Watch a sunrise or a sunset to find out which direction is east/west. Remember the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Paint / draw what you can see, or write a description/poem about it.
- Plant some nasturtiums. They are climbing plants, so they look really pretty growing up walls and fences and you can eat the flowers and leaves on bread and butter!
- Look at the clouds. How many different types can you see? Have a look at the Royal Meteorological Society website to help you identify them. What colours can you see? How quickly are they moving? Can you see any pictures in the clouds?
- Grow your own potatoes. Grow your own potatoes has some instructions for how to plant them and some instructions for how to look after them.
- Make a sundial. You can also do this with a stick in the ground instead of using a board and a nail, and by placing a stone where the shadow falls each hour, instead of marking the board with a pencil. Don’t forget to paint the numbers 1-12 on the stones!
- Enjoy a thunderstorm. Work out how far away the storm is. Is there sheet or fork lightning or both? Learn how to spell the word lightning (tip – there’s no ‘e’ in it)!
- Look at the sky at night and try to pick out some constellations. SkEye is a useful app for knowing what you are looking for, or you could try the Astronomy Now website.
- Feed the birds. Use proper birdseed – bread is really not good for them. Make sure that if you decide to put out peanuts, they only go in a proper peanut feeder – otherwise very small birds can choke on them.
And above all – have fun!
I found this recently which looks really useful for teaching some of the cultural aspects of MFL. Children always enjoy learning about what school is like in other countries.
10 differences between French and British schools – Real life – Complete France.
I’ve never written a round-up post before, but I’ve been blogging for a while and now seemed like a good time to take stock of which posts people have read the most and to reshare them. I’ve decided to group them by topic rather than a charts-style Top 10, so here goes….
The maths ones
These are all inter-linked, so I think people have clicked from one to another. Teaching Number Bonds and Teaching the Times Tables both have suggestions for helping children get to grips with these areas. They’re based on things I have tried and found to work well. What’s the Best Order to Learn the Times Tables does what it says on the tin!
The English ones
VCOP is a little out-of-fashion these days, but I don’t think it hurts to remind children to think about it. VCOP Display is a display with a twist that throws in a bit of SPaG with it. A Disco in my Classroom is all about teaching verbs in an intervention group.
The guest post
Teachers- it’s time to face the music was written by the very talented daughter of a friend of mine. A must read for all teachers – see if you can guess which one you are!
The growth mindset ones
Of Einstein and Fish is all about why I hate that picture of the animals standing in a line and being told to climb a tree. In my opinion it’s annoying, nonsensical and a cop-out! When is a test not a test? explains how I turned end of unit tests into a bit of fun and helped the children to become more active learners.
The personal one
I wrote What do you say to someone who’s grieving? when I lost my mom. It’s something we all struggle with but it’s something that rarely gets talked about. A lot of people have told me that they really appreciated me writing this and that they found it very useful.
The random one
I have no idea why Who or what is La Befana? has been so popular. I’m not complaining – just bemused!
It’s a bit of an eclectic mix, but those are the 10 best performing posts on my blog.